Saturday, September 26, 2020

The Wind in the Willows Brunch

Our next Saturday morning brunch will be at our home on Saturday, November 14th at 10:00AM with an intriguing, heartwarming, and much beloved book as the focus of the morning.  That book began as tales told by a father to his young son but ended up winning the praises of such notables as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, A.A. Milne, and President Teddy Roosevelt. Indeed, Roosevelt not only persuaded Scribners to publish the book but he considered the characters in the book to have become his “dear friends.” The book?  Kenneth Graham’s The Wind in the Willows.  

You say you haven’t read it lately? Maybe even since the days of childhood? Well, I would urge you to discover afresh the joys, the beauty, and the profound life lessons of The Wind in the Willows. And to whet your appetite, here are a couple of interesting responses to Graham’s classic. The first is from A.A. Milne, the author of the Winnie the Pooh books.

Milne once said of The Wind in the Willows: “I shall not describe the book, for no description would help it.  But I shall just say this; that it is what I call a Household Book.  By a Household Book I mean a book which everybody in the household loves and quotes continually ever afterwards; a book which is read aloud to every new guest, and is regarded as the touchstone of his worth.  But it is a book which makes you feel that, though everybody in the house loves it, it is only you who really appreciate it in its true value, and that the others are scarcely worthy of it.  It is obvious, you persuade yourself, that the author was thinking of you when he wrote it.  ‘I hope this will please Jones,’ were his final words, as he laid down his pen.”

Here’s another sparkling observation from Milne: “One does not argue about The Wind in the Willows. The young man gives it to the girl with whom he is in love, and, if she does not like it, he asks her to return his letters. The older man tries it on his nephew, and alters his will accordingly. The book is a test of character. We can't criticize it, because it is criticizing us. But I must give you one word of warning. When you sit down to it, don't be so ridiculous as to suppose that you are sitting in judgment on my taste, or on the art of Kenneth Grahame. You are merely sitting in judgment on yourself. You may be worthy: I don't know, But it is you who are on trial.”

C.S. Lewis also chimed in on The Wind in the Willows. “It might be expected that such a book would unfit us for the harshness of reality and send us back to our daily lives unsettled and discontented. I do not find that it does so. The happiness which it presents to us is, in fact, full of the simplest and most attainable things -- food, sleep, exercise, friendship, the face of nature, even (in a sense) religion. That ‘simple but sustaining meal’ of ‘bacon and broad beans and a macaroni pudding’ which Rat gave to his friends has, I doubt not, helped down many a real nursery dinner. And in the same way the whole story, paradoxically enough, strengthens our relish for real life. This excursion into the preposterous sends us back with renewed pleasure to the actual.” 

Elsewhere Lewis wrote, “I never met The Wind in the Willows or the Bastable books till I was in my late twenties, and I do not think I have enjoyed them any the less on that account. I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story. The good ones last.” 

And finally, here’s one more. G.K. Chesterton scholar James Woodruff once named The Wind in the Willows as the most Chestertonian thing ever written by anyone other than Chesterton. He claimed this was because it is “a celebration of the primal things Chesterton loved -- Home and Friendship and Adventure -- all suffused with a sense of wonder and lived out by characters who write poetry and go forth to battle and both eat and drink with right good will.”

We are really looking forward to The Wind in the Willows Brunch on Saturday morning of November 14 (10 o’clock at the Hartford Cafe) and we hope you too will plan on being a part of this fun, festive, and stimulating morning.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Finally, A "When Swing Was King" Gig!

Thank the Lord, it’s been quite a day. The beginning was the regular coffee conversation early this morning at Paradise with Patrick & John. This is a seriously intentional fellowship and it's always stimulating and encouraging to me. Thanks so much, guys. I’m so honored with your friendship. Then it was home for breakfast and to oversee the young fellow doing the autumn reseeding and aerating of the lawn. 

 Next, I finished up #29 in our series of “Anti-Boredom” Packets and Claire sent them out to the senior care facilities. We also put finishing touches on a Power Point presentation for this Sunday’s service at our church. It involves photos of Vital Signs Ministries activities over 37 years backed by a terrific 3 1/2 minute song by Scott Wesley Brown, “Who Will Stand in the Gap?” While I was doing this, Claire was doing VSM finances, posting the September LifeSharer letter on the web, sending it out to our email list, and posting on the website the last couple of our activity packets. 

 And finally, the pièce de résistance; namely, our first “When Swing Was King” show since February! 

 That’s right. We were invited in to Immanuel Village Assisted Living to present amplified songs in their outside courtyard but in a place where residents could hear it by sitting inside a common area (safely distanced) or actually sitting on the patio near where Claire and I were working the computer, microphone, and speaker. We didn’t know if it would work – the distance, the divided audience, the lack of the photos which normally accompany the show, the time since we’ve been there, and so on. We were expecting 3 or 4 people to be sitting way out yonder with no substantial communication between us. 

 We were intensely happy to be completely wrong! For we ended up with a combined audience of 25 or more and, for about 90 minutes, they were deeply involved in enjoying the music and stories, welcoming us back with wonderful enthusiasm, and letting us know how much they have appreciated the activity pages (along with the personal stories and photos that accompany each packet) over these long months. We were even able to have several conversations with them. The activity directors suggested they weren’t all that surprised by the turnout because, “Hey, they are really grateful for you guys thinking of them and putting in all that work on those activity pages. We kinda’ figured you’d get a bunch.” Wow. What a sweet blessing for us. And what a combination of blessings for the day. Thank You, Lord Jesus.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Where Did It All Come From?

There are really only two options in the end. Either there is a personal God Who made everything (carefully, purposefully and in keeping with His moral character) or everything is mere meaninglessness, an absurd collision of matter and chance to which the only authentic response is despair.

How incomparably sweet then that the revelation of Holy Scripture corresponds to the overwhelming evidence of the world, the moral conscience, and the universal longing of the human heart in acknowledging that God is there…and He is not silent.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Finishing Well: Lessons from King Asa

As I started work this morning on the Vital Signs Ministries monthly letter, it dawned on me that I hadn't presented a link here on the blog to last month's (August) letter. I sometimes overlook that because I post it on our Facebook pages and the VSM website and then forget to make sure it's here too.

Right below is the link. And, if I do say so myself, it's a relevant challenge indeed so, please check it out.

Finishing Well: Lessons from King Asa

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Going to the Dogs? #26 in Our "Anti-Boredom" Packets Is Out

Alas, the quarantines in the senior care facilities continue.

And, as long as this sad state of affairs goes on, we will keep creating our "Anti-Boredom" Packets for the residents who live there...and anyone else who needs a lift.

Last Friday, our first action after arriving home from our Colorado climbing trip was to send out #26 in our series. You can take a look at it (and all the others) on this page of the Vital Signs Ministries website.

And yes, inside #26 you will find 2 "dog photo quizzes" (with answers) that will give you a few smiles and memories. Here's one of them: